US: Officials change procedure in Hawaii equal marriage testimony as opponents suspected of cheating
After thousands of citizens testified at the House in the US state of Hawaii over the weekend, Monday’s testimony may be off to a rocky start with allegations of cheating in the queue to speak.
Testimony went on until 11pm on Saturday, and over 41 hours of evidence was heard.
There were reports of suspicious activity at Saturday night’s hearing, however, and officials have now changed procedure.
Officials at the Capitol in Hawaii have confirmed that they are looking into who took a list of registered names and numbers from the check-in desk on Saturday.
Several reports suggest that officials suggest that the list was used to provide people who had already testified with a new number to speak using someone else’s name.
This could also have given those who did not sign up the chance to testify using someone else’s name.
Carolyn Tanaka, Director of Communications for the Hawaii House released a statement, saying: “We noticed that during the check-in process there were discrepancies in matching registration numbers with some of the individuals checking in to testify. In order to ensure transparency and fairness in the public hearing process we refined our procedures by tightening up our identification requirements.”
Testifiers will now be required to show photo ID to speak at check-in and before they take to the podium. It is unclear how many people may have been involved.
Some experts have suggested that the sheer number of people against equal marriage to have signed up is a clear sign that opponents are using a tactic to stall the bill.
Colin Moore, a political science professor at the University of Hawaii said: “It’s a delaying tactic. They’re trying to either bring more attention to the issue or slow the process down and they do this by talking.
“The hope is that you can slow the process down, get them to really think about this and see that there are many other people who are opposed to this – and perhaps members of the legislature will now become less comfortable supporting this.
“Is it likely to prevent gay marriage from being enacted? In this case, I think that’s unlikely – but it does bring a lot more attention to the issue. I think in some cases it’s more effective than say protests, because citizens are able to tell their own story,” Moore continued.
Representative Bob McDermott said he did not think there was an organised effort to cheat, but that lawmakers had prolonged the hearing to ensure that all voices were heard.
He went on, however to say that “there’s no public sentiment for us to move” on the bill.
Other representatives of the House said they hoped the fact that it was hearing everyone who signed up would serve as a sign that it is taking the debate around the issue seriously.
President Barack Obama, who was recently named “hero of Russia’s gay rights movement” by The Moscow Times, has shown his support for the Marriage Equality Act, calling it a matter of “dignity and respect.”
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The public hearing continues at 11am on Monday at number 4,600 out of 5,181 who have signed up.
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